Rick Scott Archives - Florida Politics

Pete Antonacci takes cues from Rick Scott, Enterprise Florida board

Expect little change in direction of the state’s business-recruitment agency under its new management.

Pete Antonacci, a former general counsel for Gov. Rick Scott who was appointed last month as president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, said Monday he intends to maintain the goals of the agency’s board, which is chaired by the governor.

“My agenda tends to be the board’s agenda and the governor’s agenda, and that is to do what you all do, which is to make your communities in Florida a better place to live, work and raise a family,” Antonacci said.

Antonacci was appearing at a meeting of the Stakeholders Council, which kicked off two days of Enterprise Florida committee and board meetings at The Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. The board will meet Tuesday.

Antonacci was formally named president and CEO on July 24 after two years at the helm of the South Florida Water Management District.

Antonacci’s first day with the public-private Enterprise Florida was Aug. 2, but he noted Monday’s meetings were essentially his first day “on the ground” with the agency.

“I don’t come with any particular agenda except a desire to learn,” Antonacci said. “As you know, this is my first day in the economic development world. So you have much to teach me, and I have a great deal to learn.”

Antonacci, who has been offered a salary of $165,000 a year, said he’s been working with staff to get up to speed on the inner workings of the agency.

In making the hire, Enterprise Florida Vice Chairman Stan Connally, who is also chairman, president and CEO of Pensacola-based Gulf Power, noted in July that Antonacci may not be experienced in business recruitment but that the water-management district executive director has proved to be a “quick study.”

Enterprise Florida had been working under interim director Mike Grissom since March, following the abrupt departure of Chris Hart from the top position.

Hart, the former leader of CareerSource Florida, was hired in November as president and CEO of Enterprise Florida but left the position in March.

Hart pointed to a difference of opinions with Scott on the future of the agency at a time when House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, was pushing to eliminate Enterprise Florida.

Rather than meet Scott’s request for $85 million for incentive money that could be offered to individual companies, the Legislature created the “Florida Jobs Growth Grant Fund,” which set up a similar-sized pool of money for infrastructure and job-training programs to help entice businesses to Florida.

Antonacci comes in with a long history with Scott.

In March 2012, Scott appointed Antonacci to complete the term of Palm Beach County State Attorney Michael McAuliffe, who had left for a job in the private sector. After Dave Aronberg was elected to the state-attorney job later that year, Antonacci became Scott’s general counsel.

Antonacci served as Scott’s general counsel until early 2015.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Perry Thurston files bill to put Mary McLeod Bethune’s statue in Capitol

Democratic state Sen. Perry Thurston has filed legislation to make historic educator Mary McLeod Bethune the replacement for Confederate Army Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith as one of Florida’s two statutes in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall in Washington D.C..

The statute of Smith is definitely its way out, thanks to Senate Bill 310, which was passed by the Florida Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2016, but state officials have been unable to agree on whom will replace Smith.

Thurston, of Fort Lauderdale, introduced Senate Committee Resolution 184 on Monday picking Bethune.

In 2016, the Legislature created a panel to nominate possible replacements. Their picks included Bethune, environmentalist and writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and Publix founder and philanthropist George Jenkins.

Despite the recommendations, lawmakers couldn’t come to an agreement during the 2017 Legislative Session.

A bill to send Bethune to D.C. cleared the Senate last spring, but failed in the House, while the Douglas bill was blocked by Orlando Republican Rep. Scott Plakon said he would prefer to send Walt Disney, who although impactful on Florida history never lived in the state.

 

No bond for suspect in officers’ fatal shooting in Kissimmee

A suspect in the fatal shooting of two police officers in Florida will be staying in jail after a judge denied him bond Sunday, saying there was probable cause for his first-degree murder charge

Everett Miller wore handcuffs and shackles during a first-appearance hearing that lasted a minute and a half. When it was over, he said, “Thank you, your honor.”

Miller, 45, also is facing charges of resisting arrest and carrying a concealed weapon. Other charges likely will be filed.

Sgt. Sam Howard of the Kissimmee Police Department died Saturday afternoon at a hospital where he had been taken following Friday night’s attack in Kissimmee, Florida, located south of the theme park hub of Orlando. Officer Matthew Baxter died Friday night.

Meanwhile, detectives said they were looking for a person of interest as they proceed in their investigation.

Detectives emphasized that Maribel Gonzales King is not a suspect, but they said she was known to frequent the neighborhood where the police officers were shot Friday night. They were seeking the public’s help in locating her.

During a patrol late Friday of a neighborhood with a history of drug activity, Baxter was “checking out” three people, including Miller, when the officer got into a scuffle with Miller. Howard, his sergeant, responded as backup, said Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell.

The officers didn’t have an opportunity to return fire.

Sheriff’s deputies with a neighboring law enforcement agency later tracked Miller down to a bar and approached him. Miller started reaching toward his waistband when the deputies tackled and subdued him, O’Dell said. They found a handgun and revolver on him.

Miller, 45, was a Marine veteran and was recently involuntarily committed for a mental evaluation by the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. The early stages of the investigation show that Miller had made threats to law enforcement on Facebook, O’Dell said.

Baxter, 27, had been with the Kissimmee Police Department for three years. He was married to another Kissimmee police officer and they have four children.

Howard, 36, has served with the Kissimmee Police Department for 10 years. He and his wife have one child.

The officers were fatally shot in a district where the top prosecutor says she will no longer seek the death penalty. State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced earlier this year that she wouldn’t seek the death penalty, explaining it’s not a deterrent and it drags on for years for the victims’ relatives. The announcement came as her office was building a case against Markeith Loyd, who is charged with the fatal shooting of an Orlando Police lieutenant.

But Gov. Rick Scott on Saturday evening issued an executive order removing the case from Ayala and reassigning it.

Scott and Ayala are in a legal battle over the matter before the Florida Supreme Court. Ayala argues Scott is overstepping his authority by taking away cases eligible for the death penalty. The high court has yet to make a ruling.

A spokeswoman for Ayala didn’t respond to an email inquiry seeking comment.

Suspect in killings of 2 Fla. officers arrested at bar

A police officer in Florida died from his injuries Saturday, a day after his colleague was killed when a suspect fired at them during a scuffle while they were on patrol. The suspect was later arrested at a bar.

Sgt. Sam Howard died Saturday afternoon at a hospital where he had been taken following Friday night’s attack in Kissimmee, Florida, located south of the theme park hub of Orlando.

Officer Matthew Baxter died Friday night, a short time after authorities say he was shot by 45-year-old Everett Miller.

Miller faces a charge of first-degree murder for the killing of Baxter. Authorities hadn’t yet said what charges he could face for Howard’s death.

During a patrol late Friday of a neighborhood with a history of drug activity, Baxter was “checking out” three people, including Miller, when the officer got into a scuffle with Miller. Howard, his sergeant, responded as backup, said Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell.

The officers didn’t have an opportunity to return fire. They weren’t wearing body cameras.

Sheriff’s deputies with a neighboring law enforcement agency later tracked Miller down to a bar and approached him. Miller started reaching toward his waistband when the deputies tackled and subdued him, O’Dell said.

They found a handgun and revolver on him.

“They were extremely brave and heroic actions taken by the deputies,” O’Dell said.

The police chief said Miller was taken to jail wearing Baxter’s handcuffs.

Authorities originally said they believed there were four suspects, but the chief said Saturday that no other arrests are anticipated.

Miller, 45, was a Marine veteran and was recently involuntarily committed for a mental evaluation by the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. The early stages of the investigation shows that Miller had made threats to law enforcement on Facebook, O’Dell said.

Baxter, 27, had been with the Kissimmee Police Department for three years. He was married to another Kissimmee police officer and they have four children.

Howard, 36, has served with the Kissimmee Police Department for 10 years. He and his wife have one child, O’Dell said.

“They are two wonderful men, family men,” O’Dell said. “They are two committed to doing it the right way.”

Separately, two other officers were injured late Friday in Jacksonville, Florida, after police responded to reports of an attempted suicide at a home where the mother of the man’s child, their 19-month-old toddler, the woman’s mother and a family friend were thought to be in danger. One of the officers was shot in both hands and the other was shot in the stomach.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said Saturday that officers Michael Fox and Kevin Jarrell are in stable condition following Friday night’s confrontation with an armed Derrick Brabham, who was killed by the officers.

In Pennsylvania, two state troopers were shot and a suspect killed outside a small-town store south of Pittsburgh on Friday night.

President Trump tweeted early Saturday that his thoughts and prayers were with the Kissimmee Police Department. “We are with you!” he said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted he was “heartbroken” by the attacks on the officers.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Rick Scott: I will do ‘everything I can’ to ensure Jimmy Patronis stays CFO in 2018

A day after state Sen. Tom Lee indicated he would enter the race for Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Gov. Rick Scott committed to helping current CFO Jimmy Patronis stay in the position.

“I’ve known Jimmy for a long time. I appointed Jimmy because I think he’s going to do a really good job as the CFO,” Scott told reporters after holding a press conference touting July jobs number at a Honda dealership in Brandon.

“He’ll have about a year and a half to be in office,” Scott added. “I know he’s considering whether he’s going to run or not. If he runs, I’m going to be a big supporter.”

Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican and former Senate President, indicated this week he will announce his candidacy for CFO this fall. When asked if he would endorse Patronis over Lee, Scott replied, “I’ll do everything I can to make sure he wins.”

Officially, Patronis has not announced whether he’ll run next year.

“I’m putting a lot of thoughts and prayers into it, but it’s a possibility,” Patronis said after the news conference, in which Scott gave him (and House Speaker Richard Corcoran) the opportunity to advocate for a proposed constitutional amendment requiring a supermajority vote before future the Legislature can raise any taxes or fees.

Over the years, Scott has rewarded Patronis for his loyalty. The Panama City Republican, restaurateur and former state representative was an early supporter of Scott when, as a largely unknown political quantity, he ran for governor in 2010.

In 2014, Scott appointed Patronis to the Florida Public Service Commission, and in March he named him to the state’s Constitution Revision Commission.

He was named CFO by Scott in June, to finish out the term of previous CFO Jeff Atwater, who left early to become CFO of Florida Atlantic University. Patronis then stepped down from the PSC and CRC.

Lee also was at Friday’s press conference. He told Florida Politics earlier this week: “It’s my intention to run for the Republican nomination (for CFO) in 2018 and it is my intention to announce my candidacy this fall.”

Scott also is likely to be on the 2018 ballot, considered an eventual challenger to Bill Nelson for his U.S. Senate seat.

On Friday, Scott criticized Nelson for his support of the Affordable Care Act. The governor trashed the bill as “a disaster,” saying that Nelson has done nothing to try to reform its various problems.

Other Tampa Bay Republican House members who attended the event included Chris Sprowls, Jamie Grant, Jackie Toledo, Ross Spano and Amber Mariano. 

Jacksonville Bold for 8.18.17 — Are we kingmakers?

Gov. Rick Scott pitched his tax-related ballot initiative in Jacksonville this week. By his side was House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

That was no coincidence.

All smiles for Speaker Richard Corcoran, Gov. Rick Scott in Dirty Duval this week.

Corcoran was there to support the plan — but clearly, he was also there to make his presence known to a Jacksonville press corps often obtuse when it comes to statewide issues and pols.

Corcoran was quippy, making jokes about how he’d be a “horrible statewide candidate” since he couldn’t feign enthusiasm about teams outside of Tampa. And he was relatable, extolling Mayor Lenny Curry with specificity. In turn, Curry extolled Corcoran for his consistent political philosophy.

Democratic candidates for Governor have been playing in the Duval sandbox (Gwen Graham primarily, though Andrew Gillum also has shown up). However, the expectation is that Jacksonville will mean much more in GOP primaries and it’s interesting to see how everyone is playing it.

Adam Putnam has been through the area off and on since declaring his candidacy, and he can always count on coverage, though it’s hard to think of anyone in the local press corps who really “gets” Putnam or gets particularly excited about covering him.

Jack Latvala was through here earlier this month to meet with political allies at the Fraternal Order of Police.

In statewide general elections, Democrats don’t make aggressive plays here (see, Patrick Murphy 2016, Charlie Crist 2014, Alex Sink 2010). In part, it’s because the kind of milquetoast, vaguely center-left campaigns run are tailored for the I-4 Corridor, not for Jacksonville’s brand of Dems.

It will be, in 2018, a Republican year. And expect every Republican with a shot to come through and kiss Curry’s ring.

He has multiple friends in this race, and expect Curry to let the process play out before he endorses.

November sentencing for Corrine Brown

On Wednesday, motions filed by former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown for a new trial and acquittal were denied, setting the stage for a November sentencing.

Brown’s motion for a new trial was predicated on a claim that a discharged juror was incorrectly removed.

Sad times for Corrine Brown, who may be gone in November.

Judge Timothy Corrigan rejected that premise: “Corrine Brown is entitled to a fair trial with an impartial jury that reaches a verdict in accordance with the law. That is what she received.”

“I determined beyond a reasonable doubt that there was no substantial possibility that he could base his decision on the sufficiency of the evidence and the Court’s instructions,” Corrigan added.

Regarding the acquittal motion, Corrigan said that “Suffice it to say there was more than sufficient evidence to justify the jury’s verdict on each count of conviction.”

Brown’s contention was that she was careless with her finances, leaving herself open for exploitation by her former co-defendant and chief of staff. However, Corrigan said the evidence said otherwise — that Brown was active in the scheme to defraud.

Confederate monuments to go?

Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche seeks the removal of Jacksonville’s Confederate monuments in the wake of Charlottesville. The Jacksonville Civic Council backs her play.

The mayor thinks Jacksonville has some bigger issues than statues, meanwhile. And Brosche’s Council colleagues … well, let’s just say there is no consensus on this one yet.

Will the Confederate monument issue be as divisive as the HRO discussion was?

Those close to Curry have their concerns. One person wondered why this had to be hot-shotted in the way he believes it has been, when a more deliberate, less headline-grabbing process would have been more appropriate.

Regardless of timing, the band-aid has been ripped off. Jacksonville will have its own dialogue on Confederate reliquary.

For our writers, that means readers. For city officials, including those charged with public safety, more existential challenges — such as activists on the left and on the neo-Confederate side — are posed.

Mayor warns of ‘chatter’ from Confederate enthusiasts

During a Jacksonville press gaggle Tuesday, Curry warned of “chatter” heard by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in the wake of Brosche‘s proposal to remove Confederate monuments.

‘Chatter’ from Confederate enthusiasts concerns Mayor Lenny Curry.

Curry commented in the wake of questions posed to Gov. Rick Scott and him regarding the proposed removal of these monuments — a proposal fraught with controversy locally, with that controversy even extending to the Council.

“I do think it’s important when we talk about public safety to recognize that how this is pursued in our community is important,” Curry said.

“I get briefed by the Sheriff regularly. I can tell you right now from discussions with him, based on Council’s wanting to outright say they want to remove these — there’s chatter from these outside groups. People in Charlottesville are already talking about coming to Jacksonville. We want to keep those groups out of our city, and we want to work together as a community to have a civil discourse.”

“I’m not proposing we remove these monuments,” Curry said. “Certainly, if the public wants to have that conversation — now the Council President has said this is her priority to remove them.”

“I urge the Council to have that discussion, that debate, Whatever they decide, I’ll evaluate it when it lands on my desk at that time,” Curry said, refraining from a commitment to sign or veto the bill when asked.

Brosche addressed Curry’s comments later Tuesday afternoon, saying that she’s “kicked off a process for defining an orderly and respectful solution for consideration by the Council and Mayor. I hope the community can allow that process to work.”

Spotted — Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown at this weekend’s annual Congressional Black Caucus Institute’s policy conference in Tunica, Mississippi hosted by Mississippi Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson.

Hate mail hits Council President’s inbox

More fallout still from the proposal to remove Confederate monuments, in the form of emails to the Council President.

One such email purported to be from a senior administrator at a local university which, it turns out, had a cybersecurity breach that this episode uncovered.

Anna Brosche is in the middle of the maelstrom, yet undeterred.

“I find your caving-in to nasty commie anarchist hebes and their black jungle-bunny friends to be repulsive,” the email wrote.

“You are an Asian!  You don’t belong here. You aren’t from here. You just can’t cave-in to these sorry people and screw everyone else. You should not even be on the city council,” the email added, saying “liberals and their n*** allies are making you look bad.”

We asked Brosche her thoughts.

“While I’ve received an email with a closing salutation of ‘FU,’ that was the worst email so far. It does not change my position either way,” Brosche said.

Red light cameras to go

Good news for those who hate red light cameras in Jacksonville; this is the last year for them, per Sheriff Mike Williams.

The technology isn’t where it needs to be, Williams said.

Red-light cameras soon to be extinct in Jacksonville, says Sheriff Mike Williams.

“That contract will end in December. We wanted to add crash avoidance to a number of intersections in Jacksonville,” Williams said, “but the technology just isn’t there yet.”

“That was the appeal of having a red-light camera to me. If we can’t do that, we know from the data that it’s not really reducing crashes in the intersections, maybe we just let this contract sunset and take a look at it years down the road,” Williams said.

One suspects that may be many, many years down the road.

White males abound on Jax boards and commissions

The slogan du jour: One City, One Jacksonville. But the city’s boards and commissions are mostly white and male. However, that could change soon.

Of 332 people currently serving, 65 percent are male — a number not substantially different between City Council appointees (64 percent male) and appointees from other parties, such as the Mayor (66 percent).

Seventy percent of all appointees: Caucasian. The percentage of Council representatives is even higher: 80 percent, per the most recent Boards and Commissions diversity report.

This ratio holds true, more or less, no matter who is in office.

Jacksonville City boards and commissions have an overabundance of white dudes.

And some would contend that needs to change.

On Wednesday morning, Brosche held a public-notice meeting to that end.

“The meeting is intended to increase awareness of opportunities to serve in hopes of broadening the pool of candidates that apply,” Brosche said.

“I will always choose the most qualified candidate among the pool of applicants that apply; I’d like to have a ‘pool’ of candidates larger than one application,” Brosche added.

Brosche has made an active push in diversity/social justice initiatives, as seen by her push to remove Confederate monuments from public display in Jacksonville just this week.

JEA nuclear deal safe from failed project fallout

Despite a major blow to the nuclear power industry this week, JEA is still on track to add nuclear to its fuel mix around 2020.

After a South Carolina nuclear project was scuttled Monday, the Waynesboro, Georgia, plants being built by Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia became the only active nuclear construction project in the country.

The owners of the dead South Carolina project pointed to Westinghouse Electric Company’s recent bankruptcy filing as the culprit. The Toshiba-owned company was contracted to construct the new nuclear reactors and was also at one point the contractor for the Georgia plants.

JEA has a 20-year agreement in place to purchase nuclear power from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia plants.

JTA autonomous vehicles move to test track

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s autonomous vehicle program is progressing apace, and the next step: a test track.

Emails between city officials reveal that track may be in one of the highest-visibility areas in the city.

A Friday email from Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa laid it out.

Autonomous vehicles: The time is now, per JTA.

Mousa wrote that “the JTA has approached the City about utilizing a section of asphalt pavement (driveway) in the Sports Complex as a test track for their autonomous vehicle program. The driveway is located south of and adjacent to Lot K, and controlled for the City by SMG. The City, SMG and the JTA have met and based on the attached memo, all seem to be in concurrence with this driveway use, pending further plan development, coordination, etc.”

AVs are the next generation for JTA’s fleet, intended to supplement and eventually replace the outmoded Skyway vehicles.

Mystery deepens on Times-Union ownership

Jacksonville residents are still trying to figure out what the recent sale of the Florida Times-Union means, and a recent Jax Daily Record write-up may or may not offer clarity.

It was previously reported that Gatehouse bought the T-U and other Morris Communications papers. And while that’s true, Gatehouse itself has an external owner after a 2013 Chapter 11 restructuring.

“New Media was created just four years ago to take control of the newspapers owned by GateHouse Media Inc. in a prepackaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring … formed by a real estate investment trust called Newcastle Investment Corp,” writes the Record’s Mark Basch.

The Times-Union has branded itself as aggressively local journalism — and that branding has stepped up in the last year, especially after a Morris mandate to endorse Donald Trump for President. The paper has gone hyper local with niche publications for Downtown enthusiasts (“J”) and aging scenesters (“Jack.)

Will the future of this branding and these initiatives change soon? Re-orgs are always interesting.

What the donor class can buy

Marc and Nicole Padgett are among Curry’s strongest supporters, and the Jax Daily Record reports that their future fundraisers for the Mayor will be held in fine style.

The couple is building a multi-story mansion in Fort Caroline, an older neighborhood in Arlington that has some of the highest terrains in the city.

Mrs. Padgett reckons that on a clear day, the couple will be able to see Fernandina Beach from the top floor of their building.

Mr. Padgett is on the Downtown Investment Authority; Mrs. Padgett, on the city’s Planning Commission.

What Aaron Bean is up to

On Monday, Aug. 21, state Sen. Bean will speak to the University of North Florida Student Government Senate at their first meeting of the fall semester, beginning 7 p.m. at 1 UNF Drive In Jacksonville.

The Fernandina Beach Republican will then speak to the Joseph E. Lee Republican Club Thursday, Aug. 24 to give an update on the 2017 Legislative Session, beginning 6 p.m. at The Salem Centre, 7235 Bonneval Road in Jacksonville.

Bean will give another 2017 legislative session update Monday, Aug. 28, at the Republican Club of West Jacksonville’s monthly meeting beginning 6 p.m. At the Harvest Time Church of God, 4502 Old Middleburg Road in Jacksonville.

The next day, Tuesday, Aug. 29, Bean will also give an update to the Rotary Club of South Jacksonville at 12:30 p.m., River City Brewing Company, 835 Museum Circle In Jacksonville.

Save the date

Atlantic Beach kickbacks?

Eleventh-hour drama in the Atlantic Beach Mayor’s race, where Mitch Reeves is dealing with an untimely ethics flap two weeks before Election Day.

Untimely bad press for Mayor Mitch Reeves. Will it matter?

“Atlantic Beach resident and mayoral candidate Ellen Glasser brought the possible conflict to the attention of city officials when she filed a complaint about Reeves July 27. In the letter, she said she believes his employment with G.T. Distributors is a violation of Section 66 of the Atlantic Beach City Charter,” reports the Florida Times-Union.

“Glasser said she felt she needed to raise the issue after looking over city emails and transactions between the city and G.T. Distributors since October 2016. Reeves is a copied recipient of at least four emails regarding specific sales between the company and the city,” the T-U adds.

Not a good look.

Three candidates will face off Aug. 29. If a runoff is needed, that will be in November.

Amazon in NW Jax: Ready to start processing orders

The Jax Daily Record reports that Amazon has begun hiring associates in NW Jax, with the fulfillment of orders set to begin Sept. 1.

Amazon is bringing thousands of jobs, with many in the $12-$16 per hour range

All told, the Pecan Park Road center will focus on small goods, and employ 1,500 people.

The Cecil Commerce Center location will focus on large goods, opening later in September.

“The city and state approved $25.7 million in incentives for the two large fulfillment centers. [The] legislation says the company’s total investment will be $315 million,” the Daily Record report adds.

AppointedMike Bell to the District Board of Trustees, Florida State College at Jacksonville. Bell, 53, of Fernandina Beach, is the vice president of public affairs at Rayonier, Inc. He succeeds Dr. Patricia White and is appointed for a term ending May 31, 2021.

Loop Nursery wins medical marijuana license

Jacksonville-based Loop’s Nursery & Greenhouses, Inc. reached an agreement with the Florida Department of Health, reports the Daytona Beach News-Journal. The arrangement settles an extended legal dispute over the license and brings the number of firms approved to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana to 12.

Loop’s struggle to get a license began in 2014, after the passage of a law allowing the use of non-euphoric cannabis for limited types of patients, such as children suffering from epilepsy. The law, which opened the door to wider medical-marijuana legalization, created a process to award one license in each of five different regions of the state. Competition for those licenses sparked lawsuits from several growers, including Loop’s, ultimately reaching the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Now there are 12: After three years of legal fighting, Loop’s Nursery finally wins medical marijuana license.

State Surgeon General Celeste Philip, who is secretary of the Florida Department of Health, signed an order this week approving the settlement and Loop’s license. The DOH now has 10 days to formally license and register Loop’s as a “medical marijuana treatment center.”

Editorial: Deepen JAXPORT for stronger Jacksonville, Florida

A Florida-Times-Union editorial says for Jacksonville’s port to stay competitive, it should not turn away “from all the opportunities before it.”

“That means deepening the port, as has been done for over 100 years,” the T-U writes. “Ships are getting bigger. With federal and state help, Jacksonville is on the way to funding a necessary port deepening plan.”

History of the port is filled with naysayers, the paper notes, including the “black hat” who sought to retain the status quo a half-century ago, keeping intact the “corrupt city government and an underperforming County government.”

JAXPORT deepening: Good for Jacksonville, good for Florida.

Deepening the harbor will have a significant economic impact on both Jacksonville and the state of Florida.

Data from the Florida Department of Transportation shows that for every dollar invested in the deepening project will return $16 to $24 to the state’s economy: “JAXPORT is likely to be at the high end of that ratio, given its growing stake in the Asian trade market — which has increased by 57 percent in a five-year period.”

Conservatively, the Port supports about 130,000 jobs in Northeast Florida — more than 24,000 directly in Jacksonville — with the dredging creating 15,000-plus new jobs.

Uber, JAA reach agreement over trip fees

Action News Jax reports that Jacksonville’s main airport and ride-sharing service Uber have come to an agreement in principle over per-trip user fees.

In a statement, Uber gave details of the agreement: pickup fees for transportation network companies and taxi companies will be set at $2.50, changing to $3.25 for both as of Sept. 1, 2017.

JAA and Uber make nice over per-trip fees.

“We thank the airport’s leadership for working to ensure that Jacksonville residents continue to have access to affordable and reliable transportation options, said Uber Florida General Manager Kasra Moshkani.

Uber Florida Public Affairs Manager Javi Correoso told reporters JIA had been charging Uber $3.25, while Gator City cab paid $2.50 for the same per-trip fee.

“We are willing to pay fees at the airport, but we are just asking the leadership at the airport to be fair,” Correoso said.

After early scoring, Armada ends North Carolina match in draw

Jacksonville Armada FC scored twice early and held on for a 2-2 draw against league leaders North Carolina FC (NCFC) in Cary Saturday night.

Recently acquired forward Tony Taylor scored his first goal of his career with the club in just the third minute. In the 18th minute, Jack Blake scored on a penalty kick after a foul on Tony Taylor in the area to give the Armada a 2-0 lead. Just before halftime, North Carolina midfielder brought his club within one goal after a turnover in the Jacksonville box.

Newly acquired forward Tony Taylor shined once again in just his third match with the club.

“You give yourself no breathing room when it’s 2-1,” said Armada Head Coach Mark Lowry. “North Carolina has a lot of bodies coming forward, a lot of players going past you, and is a very hard team to go against if you don’t take your chances.”

“The first half we were good,” said Lowry. “One moment we fell asleep in the box, we didn’t clear our lines properly, we switched off for a second, and we got punished to make it 2-1. Then the second half was a completely different game.”

Following the break, North Carolina’s strong attacking play continued. NCFC broke through to level the match in the 69th minute when Lance Laing was in the right place at the right time for his seventh league goal of the year. The score remained level at 2-2 for the duration.

“If you take away the first 10 minutes, we were exceptionally good,” said NCFC Head Coach Colin Clarke. “But, you can’t to do that, so we’re still answerable for those poor goals we gave up at the beginning. The reaction after [Jacksonville’s] early goals was very good with our play and passing. With a little bit more luck and some better finishing, we could have gotten all three points.”

The Armada play Puerto Rico FC at Hodges Stadium Wednesday.

 

David Altmaier focuses on `assignment of benefits’ changes

Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier told Gov. Rick Scott and the state Cabinet this week that his office will continue to push lawmakers during the 2018 Legislative Session to address an insurance practice that critics argue is driving up rates.

The practice, known as “assignment of benefits,” has drawn attention in recent years because of property-insurance claims involving water damage in homes. But it also has started to draw scrutiny because of claims for damage to auto windshields.

“We are aware of situations in which consumers are told that there is a crack in their windshield, and `we can replace it right here in the parking lot for you. We just need to sign this form please,’” Altmaier said during a Cabinet meeting Wednesday. “What this is is an assignment of benefits. They replace the windshield, and there is a dispute between the windshield company and the insurance company that goes to litigation. It begins to start to drive costs up.”

Insurers have repeatedly blamed assignment of benefits for increased homeowners’ insurance premiums. They argue the process has been abused by some contractors and law firms, spurring litigation and higher costs.

But contractors and plaintiffs’ attorneys contend the process helps force insurers to properly pay claims. Lawmakers this spring could not agree on changes to the practice.

“We believe that over the past several months and the past couple of years, we have accumulated a lot of very compelling information that would demonstrate that this is certainly an issue for our policyholders,” Altmaier said.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Lori Berman

Lori Berman wants special session to yank Confederate statue from D.C.

Lantana Democratic Rep. Lori Berman sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott Thursday asking him to call a special session to replace Florida’s statue of a Confederate General at the National Statuary Hall in Washington.

Each state gets two slots to fill in the statuary hall and Florida’s current picks are Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola, who invented the ice machine, and Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith.

“With the recent acts of domestic terrorism by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, it is more imperative than ever that we complete the process we started in 2016 to replace this statue,” Berman said. “There is no place for racism or bigotry in our civil society and Florida certainly should not be represented in our nation’s Capitol by General Smith. Let’s finish the job and get this done immediately.”

Berman suggested Scott set the special session during one of the upcoming interim committee weeks, when lawmakers will already be in Tallahassee to discuss legislation ahead of the 2018 Legislative Session, which starts in January.

The South Florida Democrat told Scott that “by expediting this vote, we will be sending a message to all Americans that Florida will not tolerate hate.”

Lawmakers had mixed results in their 2016 and 2017 efforts to change out the statue. In 2016, the Legislature passed a bill to get the process started by creating a panel to nominate possible replacements.

Their picks were black educator and Bethune-Cookman University founder Mary McLeod Bethune, Publix founder and philanthropist George Jenkins, and “The Everglades: River of Grass” author Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Despite the recommendations, lawmakers couldn’t come to an agreement during the 2017 Legislative Session.

A bill to send Bethune to D.C. cleared the Senate, but failed in the House, while the Douglas bill was blocked by Orlando Republican Rep. Scott Plakon said he would prefer to send Walt Disney, who although impactful on Florida history never lived in the state.

Smith, who was born in St. Augustine, has represented Florida in the statuary hall since 1922. In addition to the statue, a Jacksonville middle school and the Alachua County School Board administration building are named after him. He is also the subject of numerous private monuments throughout the South.

Rick Scott lunches with Donald Trump ‘solely to promote Florida’

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has often spoken of President Donald Trump as his long-awaited “partner in the White House.” And that partnership was again exemplified Thursday with Scott taking a jaunt to New Jersey to lunch with the vacationing President.

A statement from Scott’s office stressed that Scott’s visit was “solely to promote Florida.”

“Governor Scott had lunch today with President Trump following an invitation from the White House last week. Governor Scott was solely there to promote Florida,” asserted Scott’s Communications Director John Tupps.

“They discussed a wide range of topics including the President’s commitment to partner with Florida on needed repairs to the federally-operated Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee. Governor Scott wants to do all he can to protect Florida’s environment and President Trump is very supportive to help.”

“Additionally, they discussed the terror attack in Barcelona and the efforts President Trump is taking to keep America safe,” Tupps added.

Scott has spent much of the last week fielding questions about Trump’s erratic reaction to the violence in Charlottesville last weekend — reaction that has fueled criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike over what some call Trump’s moral equivalence and others call the President’s latest flirtation with white supremacists.

“I’m not going to parse the president’s words, but here’s what I’ll say: It’s evil. It’s horrible. I don’t believe in racism, I don’t believe in bigotry,” Scott said Monday. “I believe that the KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, they don’t belong in our society.”

On Wednesday, Scott said that he didn’t serve in the Navy “to defend neo-Nazis.”

Some will question Scott’s unwillingness to criticize the president on this issue directly. Others, meanwhile, will frame it as the cost of doing business with a White House as mercurial as any in recent memory.

Gwen Graham calls on Rick Scott to ‘immediately denounce’ Donald Trump’s Charlottesville comments

Rick Scott is set to sit down to lunch with President Trump this afternoon at the Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Gwen Graham says there’s no better time for him to do what he has declined to do all week — criticize the president for his remarks last weekend equating white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Public officials from coast to coast — both Democrats, and even some Republicans — have condemned Donald Trump’s outrageous remarks on the violence in Charlottesville, but there’s at least one glaring exception: Florida Governor Rick Scott, who has remained deafeningly silent,” the Democratic gubernatorial candidate said in a statement Thursday. “Silence is unacceptable in the face of a president who called white supremacists and neo-Nazis ‘very fine people’ and claimed ‘all sides’ were responsible for the violence that left three people dead.”

Scott and Trump are friends, and the governor had notably declined to address Trump’s controversial comments this week when he defended the white nationalists who demonstrated in Virginia and said they included “some very fine people.”

Trump laid some of the blame for the violence that broke out at the feet of “alt-left” counter-protesters; he also equated the Confederate General Robert E. Lee with America’s Founding Fathers. Florida Republicans like Marco Rubio, Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have called out the president directly for the comments, but Scott has remained notably silent.

“You can ask President Trump what he said,” Scott told reporters Wednesday when asked his thoughts about the president’s latest comments.

The governor went on to say that there was “no moral equivalency between the two sides,” and that as a Navy veteran, he didn’t go into the military to defend neo-Nazi’s.

“I urge all political leaders at the state, local and federal level – including the president- to focus on unity,” he continued, adding, “how do we come together, how do we create more love and less hate? We’ve got to eliminate this divisiveness in this country.”

Graham says it’s time for Scott to specifically call out Trump’s comments.

“I am calling on Governor Scott to immediately denounce President Trump’s remarks and confirm that white supremacists are not welcome in Florida,” she said.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons